Seanad debates

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)

 

10:30 am

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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The Minister is very welcome back.

Section 53 agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 103b:

In page 36, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:“54.Where the Procedures Committee prepares a statement of procedures for submission to the Commission under this Part and where the statement so prepared sets out different procedures in respect of any particular judicial office in cases where some or all of the applicants already hold judicial office, the statement may provide that different selection procedures shall apply to applicants holding judicial office by reference to the particular judicial office held by such applicants.”.

I wish to say in preparation for the debate that Senator McDowell is delayed on very important business in the court and could not be here, unfortunately, so he has asked me to move the amendments-----

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I did not hear that.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am quite sure the Minister did, and his broad smile indicates that he has told a little fib.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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Can we have that again for the record?

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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No.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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The House deserves it.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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The House has got it so it will have to make do with-----

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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If Senator Norris would like to say it again, he is more than welcome to do so.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I do not really want to.

These amendments, in the names of Senator McDowell and my other colleagues, who have graciously allowed me to move them, are very clear and specific. Appointments for different judicial offices - in the District Court, the Circuit Court, the High Court and so on - may have different aspects. The point of this amendment is to make sure that the committee charged with advising the commission how the appointment process should run can be empowered to make this so. The amendment therefore allows the commission to have authority and empowers it to make sure that different processes are used.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that, as the process of appointing for different judicial offices - in the District Court, the Circuit Court, the High Court, etc. - may differ, the committee charged with advising the commission how the appointment process should run can be empowered to make this so. We will withdraw the amendment but we reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I welcome the Minister to the House for another instalment, perhaps the final instalment, of Committee Stage of this Bill.I hear from Senator Boyhan that Senator McDowell is withdrawing amendment No. 103b, which I think is wise. The motivation behind it is clear and admirable but the wording of the provision is inelegant, at best. It is somewhat clunky and the Bill is already full of cumbersome wording and convoluted passages.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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We do not need to discuss it for too long.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I hope it will come back on Report Stage in a redrafted form.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Is it agreed that amendment No. 103b is being withdrawn?

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am perfectly certain that Senator McDowell will be in a position to redraft the amendment in a more acceptable fashion.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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That underlines the status of the underlings.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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The Minister is in good humour and is smiling broadly.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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There is potential for some 60 more votes so-----

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I think we should all take exception to the Minister's comment about underlings as it is uncalled for, even in the spirit of good humour with which I hope he offered the quip.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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There may be an end-of-term feel about the place at the moment.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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While refusing to explain in full the absence of Senator McDowell, Senator Norris then went to great pains to say that, of those who proposed the amendment, one of them, namely, Senator McDowell would be charged with the responsibility of redrafting it. I merely pointed to the fact that if Senator McDowell is the driver of this car, the others are mere passengers.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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What a horrible thing to say.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I do not mind. The Minister is a decent, civilised Laois man and I have no objection to being called a passenger or an underling. I have been an underling all my life. It is a very comfortable position to be in and one which I occupy with great dignity..

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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While the Minister sees me as a passenger, I got into the car of my own free will and am delighted to be associated-----

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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The Senator has had a bumpy ride.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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The only one who has had a bumpy ride around here is the Minister.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Let us not inflame the situation.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I admire the Minister for his tenacity and for hanging in there. If we go through Committee Stage today, I will look forward to Report Stage at around Christmas 2020.

Photo of Kevin HumphreysKevin Humphreys (Labour)
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We should get back to serious business. The remarks the Minister made are a little bit beneath him and I hope he made them in good humour. Senator Norris does not have to explain why Senator McDowell is not here. All good drivers need good navigators.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I was not referring to Senator Humphreys.

Photo of Kevin HumphreysKevin Humphreys (Labour)
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We made an agreement to finish Committee Stage today. We should do the business and get it finished.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I am trying to do the business but I am at the will of Members.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I took objection to the Minister's use of the word "underlings", which has a nasty and derogatory sound. However, the word "passenger" is far less loaded and the Minister has taken on a distinct transport hue, somewhat like the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Who is the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport?

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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He is, perhaps, the real driver of this entire Bill.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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The Minister for Justice and Equality is the underling in respect of this Bill, like I am.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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There are quite a number of passengers here but only one driver. That is all I will say on the matter. It is clear that the driver is not in the room but he is responsible for transport. While I agree with Senator Humphreys that we should conclude Committee Stage today, we should not forget who the real driver is.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 103c:

In page 36, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

“54. Where the Procedures Committee prepares a statement of requisite skills and attributes for submission to the Commission under this Part, the statement so prepared shall include a statement setting out the approach to be taken in determining for the purposes of section 7(1) of this Act what constitutes merit and shall, for that purpose, indicate any criteria other than those set out at subsection (6)(a) to (c) of section 53.”.

This is about merit. We have heard a great deal about merit, diversity and other things and about the absolute necessity for judges to be appointed on merit, on which we all agree. Senator McDowell's amendment would give the procedures committee the capacity to examine what is meant by "merit" and how it is reflected in the appointment of judges. It is very important that judges are appointed strictly on merit alone. Merit includes knowledge of the law and a capacity to determine things. It is a very important criterion, to which the Minister has paid adequate tribute throughout the debate. I understand that Senator Boyhan will withdraw the amendment but that it will be reinstated on Report Stage by Senator McDowell. It is a very important amendment that deals directly, clearly and cogently with merit and it is very significant.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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The purpose of this amendment is to allow the procedures committee the freedom to determine what constitutes merit and ensure that appointments to the Judiciary are based on merit and not on other criteria. I will withdraw the amendment but I will reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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There remain 24 amendments and six sections to be dealt with, in addition to the concluding part of the Bill, which has to be finished by 3.07 p.m.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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We are making progress.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 103d:

In page 36, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

“54. A statement made under this Part shall contain an acknowledgement for the information of applicants that, in respect of any appointment to judicial office, the Government is not obliged to recommend to the President the appointment of any person recommended by the Commission and may recommend the appointment of any person eligible in law to be appointed.”.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I understand the Senator is going to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I have moved it and I await the Minister's response.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I am not accepting the amendment because I have already made it clear that the specific provisions in sections 40(2) and 41(3) relate to the advice the Government gives to the President. In this regard, I intend to bring forward an amendment to insert a more general provision that will be applicable to the Bill as a whole. A general broad statement will clearly and unambiguously state that nothing in the Bill may undermine the constitutional prerogative of Government to advise the President in the matter of appointments. In that regard, amendment No. 103d is not necessary.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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We will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Who is withdrawing it?

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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For information, the amendment proposes that a statement made under this Part shall contain an acknowledgement for the information of applicants that, in respect of any appointment to judicial office, the Government is not obliged to recommend to the President the appointment of any person recommended by the commission and may recommend the appointment of any person eligible in law to be appointed. It gives greater freedom to the Government in making these appointments so that it does not have to confine itself to the recommendation but can go outside it to find somebody who is peculiarly fitted to this particular position.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

SECTION 54

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 104:

In page 36, line 7, after “Commission” to insert “, subject to subsection (4),”.

This amendment mirrors a Scottish Act.It ensures that the lay members are not assessing that part of the formal statement which will govern how to consider an applicant on criteria they have no qualifications, experience or capacity to assess. I am withdrawing the amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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This is following the Scottish precedent and the Minister has urged the significance and relevance of the Scottish experience upon us. It is important that we do not just confine it to where the Minister considers it appropriate but that we look at the Scottish experience in detail. It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that where there are lay members, and there are quite a number of lay members in this situation, the lay members who are not qualified and do not have the capacity or experience to assess these criteria should not take part in this process.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 105:

In page 36, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:“(4) Lay members of the Commission shall not take part in the modification referred to in subsection (1)(b) insofar as it concerns—
(a) a statement made under section 53(1)(b),

(b) part of a statement made under section 53(1)(a) which concerns—
(i) knowledge of the law,

(ii) skills and competence in the interpretation and application of the law, or

(iii) ability to exercise functions as holders of judicial office.”.

Amendment No. 104 is consequential to amendment No. 105. We withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 54 agreed to.

NEW SECTION

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 105a:

In page 36, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:“55. (1) Where the Commission has approved a statement in accordance with section 54, it shall submit the statement to the Secretary to the Government.

(2) A statement submitted under subsection (1) shall not be published under this Part unless and until a motion approving the statement for publication shall have been prepared by or on behalf of the Government and approved by each House of the Oireachtas.”.

Senator McDowell's interest here is in the constitutional robustness of the provisions of the Bill. He believes that the procedures the judicial appointments commission operates under should be ones that have received a certain amount of scrutiny by the Government. Many times during the 125 hours of this debate, Senator McDowell has referred to the power of the Government. It is reserved for the Government to make the appointments and nobody else should be involved directly in the process of appointment. We want the Government to continue to have the exclusive power to recommend judicial appointments to the President. That is the significance of this amendment.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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The amendment would make the process of appointment more robust constitutionally and would ensure that the procedures adopted by the judicial appointments commission are those which would have received democratic scrutiny by the Government, which has the exclusive power to recommend judicial appointments to the President. We will withdraw the amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 55 agreed to.

NEW SECTION

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendments Nos. 105b, 107a to 107d, inclusive, and 108a are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed?

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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No. We must discuss each separately.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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That is fine.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 105b:

In page 37, to delete lines 8 and 9 and substitute the following:“Review by the Commission and Recommendations

56. (1) The Commission shall monitor and review—”.

This amendment relates to the activities of the procedures committee that the Bill will bring into operation. The amendment removes from that committee the responsibility for overseeing and monitoring the implementation of the Bill and instead gives that responsibility to the commission. There is no valid or decent reason that a sub-committee of the commission should have the exclusive power to monitor and review how the legislation is operating. Senator McDowell believes, and I agree, that the full commission should do this. I strongly recommend the amendment to the Government.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I will speak briefly on the amendment, which, I suspect, Senator Boyhan intends to withdraw. I hope it will be reintroduced on Report Stage. It is sensible that it would be the commission that would have responsibility, under section 56, for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the legislation. I note that among the aspects of the implementation of the Bill to be reviewed are aspects such as diversity among candidates for judicial appointment. The Labour Party brought forward a number of amendments, which I have withdrawn and which I reserve the right to reintroduce on Report Stage, relating to the issue of diversity among candidates for judicial appointment and, in particular, the need to ensure gender balance in the Judiciary. If these amendments were reintroduced on Report Stage they would fit neatly with our amendments Nos. 86, 87, 91 and 93, which I reserve the right to reintroduce on Report Stage.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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This amendment would remove the procedures committee as established under the Bill from having the responsibility for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the Bill and instead vest that responsibility in the full commission. There is no reason that a subcommittee of the commission should have the exclusive power to monitor and review how the legislation is operating. It should be the responsibility of the full commission. I am withdrawing the amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

SECTION 56

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 105c:

In page 37, to delete line 12.

The amendment seeks to remove line 12 on page 37 which reads:

"(1) The Procedures Committee shall monitor and review—(a) the implementation of this Act including in particular—
(i) the practical operation of the published statement,

(ii) the diversity among candidates for judicial appointment,"

Senator McDowell wishes to remove the line which reads "(ii) the diversity among candidates for judicial appointment,". The deletion would remove the procedures committee from the responsibility of monitoring and reviewing the diversity among candidates for judicial appointment.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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This amendment would remove from the procedures committee the mandatory criterion that diversity among candidates for judicial appointment form part of the review of the implementation of the legislation. I am withdrawing the amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment Nos. 106 and 107 not moved.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 107a:

In page 37, line 23, to delete “Procedures Committee” and substitute “Commission”.

This is a similar amendment in that it takes the procedures committee out of the situation. The situation involved is commissioning research into the qualification requirements for appointment and for selection and recommendation of persons. Instead it should go back to the full commission. I urge the House to accept the amendment.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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This amendment would remove the procedures committee established under the Bill from having the responsibility for commissioning research into qualification requirements for appointment to judicial office and the requirements for selection and recommendation of persons for such appointment and instead would vest that responsibility in the full commission. I am withdrawing the amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 107b:

In page 37, line 28, to delete “Commission” and substitute “Minister”.

In most legislation it is the Minister who requests that legislation be reviewed. It is very unusual for the bodies that are established under the Minister's authority to decide independently that it is necessary to have a review. I hope the Minister will feel able to support this amendment because it is returning to him the powers that normally reside with the Minister in any event. We are following good parliamentary procedure in moving this amendment.I am not sure if the Minister is shaking his head because he cannot find the place in the Bill or whether-----

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I have it.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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He is on the ball as always, like a good Laois man.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I will tell the Senator why I am shaking my head when he is finished.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I will pass over to my distinguished colleague, Senator Boyhan. I look forward to listening to the Minister with great interest.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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This amendment would give the Minister, not the commission, the power to decide whether a review of the form set out in section 56(1) of the Bill should take place. Most Bills provide for the Minister to request reviews, and do not allow the bodies established under the Minister's aegis to decide that a review is warranted of their own motion. I am withdrawing the amendment but I reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Would the Minister like to speak to this amendment?

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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No. I was asked by Senator Norris if I would accept the amendment. I am less than comfortable accepting any amendment in the name of Senator McDowell without him being present. I do not believe it would be fair of me to do so, having regard to his role in this Bill. In any event, I do not have that choice because Senator Boyhan is withdrawing the amendment, which I am sure is in deference to the role of Senator McDowell.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Can I just say-----

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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That concludes-----

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Agreed.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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When an amendment is properly moved in the House, I do not think the Minister can refuse to accept it just because the initial sponsor is not present.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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He has said that.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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We need other reasons, which the Minister will have the opportunity to give Senator McDowell on Report Stage, as we hope he will be here in the flesh.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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In his capacity as Senator.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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He is also a former Minister for Justice and Equality, a former Attorney General, and a very distinguished senior counsel.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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He is also a former Tánaiste if the Senator wants to include the full list.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I beg your pardon, he is also a former Tánaiste.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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If we are doing the list, we might as well do the full list.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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He may be a future Tánaiste.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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He might be.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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He may be a future Taoiseach.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 107c:

In page 37, line 29, to delete “Procedures Committee” and substitute “Commission”.

This follows on naturally from the previous amendments we have discussed because we are taking the power away from the procedures committee, and giving it back to the commission, where it belongs.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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We are withdrawing this amendment but reserve the right to bring it back on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 107d:

In page 37, line 30, to delete “Commission” and substitute “Minister”.

I am moving this on behalf of Senator McDowell. This also follows on directly from the previous amendment which has been withdrawn but will be reintroduced on Report Stage. It is part of granting full powers back to the Minister, and in order to do that it is necessary to delete the word "commission" and replace it with the word "Minister".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 108 not moved.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 108a:

In page 38, to delete lines 4 to 7 and substitute the following:“(5) The Minister shall, having considered any report and recommendations made under subsection (4), lay the report and recommendations, if any, before both Houses of the Oireachtas.”.

Instead of the commission providing a report of the review to the Minister and it remaining in the Minister's Department, this amendment would ensure it is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, like all other reviews in other Bills. This is important for our democracy. In other words, it is to ensure it does not just go to the Minister for his personal decision, but that both Houses of the Oireachtas will have the opportunity to discuss the matter in full. What is the point in having a review if it is going to be confined to the Minister and not laid before these Houses, when it is normal practice to do so? In my lengthy experience in this House the practice has been to put these reviews before the Oireachtas for a full debate.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 109 has already been discussed with amendment No. 102. Is it being moved?

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 109:

In page 38, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:“(6) (a) Lay members shall not take part in the preparation of a recommendation referred to in this section which concerns a statement made under section 53(1)(b) of this Act or that part of the statement referred which formed part of the Published Statement within the meaning of this Act.

(b) Lay members shall not take part in the preparation of a recommendation referred to in this section which concerns a statement made under section 53(1)(a) of this Act or that part of the statement referred which formed part of the Published Statement within the meaning of this Act insofar as it concerns—
(i) knowledge of the law,

(ii) skills and competence in the interpretation and application of the law, or

(iii) ability to exercise functions as holders of judicial office.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 56 agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 109a:

In page 38, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:“57. The provisions of this Part shall also apply to the Commission in the discharge of its functions under this Act.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 109b:

In page 38, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:“57. Where the Commission considers that it is appropriate in any case it may determine to make a recommendation to the Minister without ranking the persons recommended in the order of the Commission’s preference.”.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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This amendment means the commission, in certain circumstances, can make a recommendation and does not have to list people in order of preference. That is an important point.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I would like to briefly set the record straight on this. It is an important point and one I will reflect further on, having regard to the arguments put forward. Both I and the proposing Senator will reflect on that and we will come back to it on Report Stage.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I welcome the fact that the Minister is so flexible on this matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 109c:

In page 38, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:“Records of the Commission

57. Records of the Commission required to be kept under section 29 shall not be amenable to discovery in any court proceedings, civil or criminal and shall not be amenable to any order for production, inspection, correction or amendment under any law relating to data protection or freedom of information.”.

This amendment ensures the privacy of the commission's deliberations. It is important to have this element in the Bill, and for the commission to be able to range widely in its discussions and make reference to matters, which may not be in the public interest to be bruited abroad. It insulates the records of the commission from orders for discovery in court proceedings, for example. I am aware of the idea of discovery, which is an important element in the law, because I made some very important discoveries in a libel case I once took. A woman published an interview she did with me in 2000 or 2001, and I wanted to take libel action against her but could not find a barrister prepared to take the case. Subsequently, when I took the libel action, we won discovery of the tapes, which was significant because they differed substantially from the grotesque distortion of my views she had published. I therefore accept that discovery is an important mechanism.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I hope the Senator was adequately compensated.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I was very well compensated, thank you.

This is to ensure the privacy of the discussions of the commission. It is an important amendment. I regret very much that Senator McDowell is not able to be here today but I am sure he will make a very full and complete point when it comes forward on Report Stage. I say "full". Many people in this House say "fulsome". That is a completely incorrect use of the word "fulsome". "Fulsome" is a nasty word and implies very negative things about the process described as being fulsome. I am saying a "full" explanation.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I am not accepting this amendment. I rise because Senator Norris remarked on my flexibility. Lest he become carried away, I want to make it clear that I am not accepting this amendment because I do not believe the commission can be exempted in such a broad manner. In any event, as the amendment is in the course of being withdrawn, I will not elaborate further.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 109d:

In page 38, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:“57. When establishing the Procedures Committee under section 16 the Committee shall include in its membership both the practising barrister and the practising solicitor appointed under section 13.”.

It is important to have a wide view from the legal profession of these kinds of matters and to have both a barrister and a solicitor represented in the discussions. For that reason, it is important that we accept this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 109e:

In page 38, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:“57.No cause of action shall exist against the Commission or any of its members arising out of the failure of the Commission to recommend any person or category of persons for appointment to judicial office under the terms of this Act and no cause of action shall exist against the State or the Government arising from any failure to advise the President to appoint to judicial office any person recommended for such appointment by the Commission.”.

I would say this is fairly obvious. In order to make an informed decision, the Government needs the widest possible information on the subject. The amendment reinforces that, regardless of any recommendations made by the commission, the appointment of judges remains a power vested in the Government, and that is what the Constitution requires. Any deviation would necessitate a referendum. Further, or in the alternative, if a conflict arises between this Act and the Constitution, the Constitution is what is relied on. This is a very important point. Senator McDowell is raising constitutional issues. He is reinforcing the fact that, regardless of recommendations made by the commission, the power of appointment of judges would remain solely a Government function. It is vested, under the Constitution, exclusively in the hands of the Government. There should be no attempt whatever to dilute or weaken this, and it should be implemented.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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This is an issue that has bothered me the whole way through this Bill, namely, that the absolute power with respect to the appointment of judges rests with the Government under the Constitution. Regardless of the findings or deliberations of any commission or committee, at the end of the day, the Minister for Justice and Equality, advising the Government, can pick a candidate who has not come before this commission. As Senator Norris has just said, it would require a referendum to change the law if we were to change the way judges are appointed. I will withdraw the amendment while reserving the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage. However, it is a question that we need to answer when the Minister comes back on Report Stage as to how exactly we can compel a Government to accept the nominees, which I do not believe we can do under the Constitution. I will await the Minister's advice.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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We will come back to this. I note the Senator has withdrawn the amendment while at the same time reserving the right to re-enter it on Report Stage. I merely want to flag a reason for my inability to accept the amendment, which I am sure will also be the case at a later stage when we are discussing the Bill. I specifically sought the advice of the Attorney General on this matter. There is an issue with the requirement in the amendment which would have the result of posing obvious legal issues by ousting completely the jurisdiction of the courts to deal with any legal or constitutional issue surrounding the process for a judicial appointment. It is the belief of the Attorney General, which I share, that this would be liable to constitutional challenge. I do not accept for one moment that Senator Craughwell wished to see that in the amendment. Let both sides reflect further on it. I am assuming the amendment will be re-entered in this or a similar form. However, I ask the proposer of the amendment to bear in mind the advice of the Attorney General as given to me on the matter.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I appreciate the Minister's willingness to engage on these matters. It is not the first time he has shown a willingness through what has been a fairly lengthy process. I ask that, before we come back to Report Stage, we all sit around the table and have a look at that specific issue, given it is the one that has brought me into this debate the whole way through. If we can resolve that and in some way find a solution to it, I would find myself far more comfortable with this Bill.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am very glad the Minister has indicated in this fashion. While I know it is not usual to make the Attorney General's advice available, I wonder if, in this instance, since we are dealing with a former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the general outline of that can be made available. This would be of great help to Senator McDowell in redrafting the amendment, if he so decides.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I will make two points. First, I will not be departing from the time-honoured principle and convention on the matter of the Attorney General's advice. Second, I say to Senator Craughwell, who invites me to sit around the table, that this is precisely what we are doing. We have been sitting around the table for 125 hours over 16 months.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It is a little more now.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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We might shorten it the next time around.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I am prepared to give further consideration to it but I am not sure about any other means by which this issue can be addressed, other than through the Standing Orders of either House. That is why I have been perfectly happy to be here for 125 hours or, indeed, any other time it might take Senators to deal with the matter. However, I do not foresee another forum.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I wonder why we were threatened with a guillotine if the Minister is prepared to sit around the table for any number of hours.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Sometimes it focuses the mind.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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Maybe we should go back to the point raised by Senator Bacik.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I do not remember that point.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I did not impose any guillotine.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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One was referred to on the Order of Business. I am not accusing the Minister.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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It may have been referred to but it was not proposed by me.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I wonder, for the sake of the record, if the Minister will be able to tell us whether this 125 hours, to which he has referred on so many occasions, and I think it is a little more now, is a historical record.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I leave these matters in the hands of the Clerk of the Seanad and his able team.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I have to say that I am delighted the Minister has been counting the hours because the Leader of the House told Senators this morning that it was 102 hours.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I defer to the Leader of the House on all occasions-----

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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A great mistake.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I have been required by the Chairman to do so.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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It feels like 1,000 hours just this week.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I do not have a clock on me.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I will bring this to a close. Senator Bacik wanted to come in.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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With respect, an important point is being raised by my colleagues. In the normal course of events where there is a serious opposition within the Seanad or the Dáil to a particular Bill or provisions of it, there would usually be recourse to some discussion - outside of the debate - between the officials, the Minister and the Senators who are opposing particular aspects of the Bill in an effort to reach a compromise. I said this before, at some earlier point during Committee Stage debates. There are numerous examples, such as the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018, with which Senator Norris and I had issues. Senator Norris will recall that we had meetings with officials and with the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, in an attempt to reach a compromise position. Similarly, with some of the Private Members' Bills I proposed that the Government adopted and amended we met a number of times over the course of preparation of amendments. We achieved good legislation as a result; through this negotiation and compromise it is often more possible in meetings outside of the actual legislative debate. While issues should, of course, be raised on the floor of the House during Committee Stage debates, quite frequently we have recourse to meetings outside of the debates to try to achieve compromise where there is real opposition to particular provisions in a Bill. That has not happened in this case. I have made that comment before. It is a pity that it did not happen and it would have shortened things.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 109(f):

In page 38, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:“57. No person shall be eligible for appointment to any judicial office within the meaning of this Act unless he or she is a citizen of Ireland.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 57 agreed to.

SECTION 58

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 110 has already been discussed with amendment No. 6.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 110:

In page 39, line 9, to delete “Act of 2018.”.” and substitute the following:“Act of 2018.
(6) Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the advice the Government may give to the President with respect to the appointment by the President, under Article 35 of the Constitution, of a person to be a judge.”.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 58 agreed to.

SECTION 59

Question proposed: "That section 59 be deleted."

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I wonder could we have an explanation from the Minister on this?

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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Completely.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I have to say that I am 75 years of age and I am still fairly active in this House. I completely approve of judges being allowed continue. They do get wiser as they get on - or most of them do - and I think the idea of increasing the retirement age is a very good one.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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Senator Norris will be aware that prior to the debate on this Bill we had debate on the previous Bill that we described as the courts Bill and a similar amendment was made to that Bill, which transposed the import of the current section 49 before us onto that Bill. It was deemed to be more appropriate. That Bill has been passed by the Seanad. The point quite rightly made by Senator Norris will be the subject matter of that new Bill, which I expect to be enacted in its entirety very shortly.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I thank the Minister because I was not aware of that. I am very grateful indeed for the clarification.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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The Courts (Establishment and Constitution) (Amendment) Bill 2019 completed Report Stage earlier today.

Question put and agreed to.

NEW SECTION

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 111:

In page 39, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“Completion of judicial proceedings after retirement

60. The Courts and Court Offices Act 1995 is amended by the insertion after section 47A of the following section:

“47B. (1)Notwithstanding that a person has retired from or otherwise vacated an office to which this section applies—
(a) he or she, with the consent of the President for the time being of the relevant court, may within a period of four months thereafter discharge the function of giving judgment and making an order on foot thereof and making any consequential or ancillary order in any case or matter which was begun and heard before him or her prior to he or she vacating or retiring from that office, and

(b) for that purpose, and for the purpose of any proceeding arising out of such case or matter, he or she shall be treated as having been a holder of that office at the time of discharging the function mentioned in paragraph (a).
(2) Provided that nothing in this section applies in cases where such person was removed from office or imposes or increases any charge on the Central Fund or the public revenue.

(3) In this section ‘consequential or ancillary orders’ includes any certification or settling a case stated for the purpose of an appeal and the granting of any stay in respect of the order and any order dealing with the costs of any proceeding to which subsection (1) relates.

(4) Nothing in this section precludes the President of any court from directing that any “consequential or ancillary order” in any proceeding to which subsection (1) has application may be made by another member of the court in cases where it would be just to do so.

(5) Where the proceedings to which subsection (1) relates were proceedings before a division of a court consisting of three or more members, nothing in this section precludes the remaining members of that division of the court from delivering a reserved judgement or making an ancillary or consequential order, where the President for the time being of the court has consented and where the remaining members of the relevant division of the court are of opinion that no injustice would result.

(6) In this section the term ‘President’ includes the Chief Justice in relation to cases heard in the Supreme Court.”.”.
This was to come after section 59, which has now been removed, so presumably it now comes directly after section 58, and therefore the number I have for the moment is not appropriate. This amendment is to amend the Courts and Court Offices Act 1995 by the insertion after section 47A of the following section:“47B. (1)Notwithstanding that a person has retired from or otherwise vacated an office to which this section applies—I presume this means a question of illness. Supposing the judge has a heart attack or a stroke and is not able to fulfil the functions, in those places the amendment provides that:
(a) he or she, with the consent of the President for the time being of the relevant court, may within a period of four months thereafter discharge the function of giving judgment and making an order on foot thereof and making any consequential or ancillary order in any case or matter which was begun and heard before him or her prior to he or she vacating or retiring from that office, and

(b) for that purpose, and for the purpose of any proceeding arising out of such case or matter, he or she shall be treated as having been a holder of that office at the time of discharging the function mentioned in paragraph (a).
(2) Provided that nothing in this section applies in cases where such person was removed from office or imposes or increases any charge on the Central Fund or the public revenue.
I take it that this reference to the Central Exchequer and to funds and so on is to ensure that the Bill is protected against the qualification that Seanad Éireann is prohibited as it currently stands - although we have some business on that to try to remove standing order section 41 - and it could be ruled out of order because it creates a charge on the Exchequer. The amendment also provides that:
(3) In this section ‘consequential or ancillary orders’ includes any certification or settling a case stated for the purpose of an appeal and the granting of any stay in respect of the order and any order dealing with the costs of any proceeding to which subsection (1) relates.

(4) Nothing in this section precludes the President of any court from directing that any “consequential or ancillary order” in any proceeding to which subsection (1) has application may be made by another member of the court in cases where it would be just to do so.

(5) Where the proceedings to which subsection (1) relates were proceedings before a division of a court consisting of three or more members, nothing in this section precludes the remaining members of that division of the court from delivering a reserved judgement or making an ancillary or consequential order, where the President for the time being of the court has consented and where the remaining members of the relevant division of the court are of opinion that no injustice would result.

(6) In this section the term ‘President’ includes the Chief Justice in relation to cases heard in the Supreme Court.”.”.
Once again we are following the precedent of our neighbouring island. In so doing we are introducing a very practical element into the Bill. I emphasise that this is not just something from Senator McDowell - I nearly said President McDowell - but that it is from the President of the Court of Appeal who had actually asked that this provision be introduced into the legislation. This is a voice to which we must listen. In addition, we hear a lot these days about delays in the courts system. This would have the effect of speeding up the courts system and ameliorating these delays.

The situation at the moment is that a judge stops being a judge completely and fully. He or she is extinct from being a judge from the very day of retirement. This means that judges are pretty well frozen for the last three months of their operation. This is to make sure that judges are not sitting on cases that might not come to a conclusion-----

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Is the Senator concluding?

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I might if I am given a chance. Did I hear a little squeak from the bench?

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I do not think so.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Good. It was a creak. All of the outstanding judgments then have the opportunity to be delivered. This has even more relevance in the appellate courts where more than one judge might be sitting.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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My colleague has said all that I had intended to say.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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No, please, say it again.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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We are making progress today, which is a very positive thing. This amendment mirrors the UK legislation and is a practical one. It is something the President of the Court of Appeal has looked for and it would also reduce delays in the courts. Currently, a judge must stop being a judge on the date of retirement, which means that judgments must be delivered by that date. The inevitable consequence of the reality of that is that judges are in effect benched for the last three months of their time as a judge, in order to ensure that they are not sitting on cases that may not finish and that all outstanding judgments are delivered.

This is even more relevant for the appellate courts where more than one judge sits. I will withdraw the amendment but reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Does Senator Craughwell wish to speak?

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I do not wish to delay the Bill.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I do not wish to contravene any Standing Order on the basis that the Senator has withdrawn the amendment, but I want to indicate my support for what all three Senators have said. It is a really important issue and one I will certainly look at. I am not sure if it is one that might be appropriate for Report Stage of this Bill, but it is one that is certainly deserving of favourable consideration in the context of a number of pieces of legislation on the civil law side currently going through either House or in the course of preparation.

I take the Senators' point and thank them for bringing it to my attention. It is a point with which I agree fully but I would like to reflect, in conjunction with the Senators, on how best it might be reflected in law in terms of whether this is the appropriate vehicle. I do not think it is but let us see if I have a better one over the next few months because I accept its importance and the points raised.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I thank the Minister for his graciousness in this which shows the importance of Seanad Éireann that in this very lengthy debate we have had and in which I have played a role-----

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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A very substantial role.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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A starring role

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am not quite a star. I am on the secondary list and part of the supporting cast.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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The Senator needs to be careful because Senator Bacik took issue earlier. He is talking about supporting cast.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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He is a passenger.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I accepted that I was a passenger. The Minister described me as a passenger. How can he possibly think that I am a star, if I am a passenger? I am an underling. The Minister said I was an underling and I accept my humble status.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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Good.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I bow to the Minister.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Norris, please.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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How can I possibly be a star if I am an underling?

This is very important and shows that with this very long-lasting debate, there have been issues of very considerable reference to the effective operation of this Bill.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I thank Senator Norris and call Senator Bacik.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I echo Senator Norris's welcome for the Minister's response on amendment No. 111, the last amendment in the long list we have had. This amendment raises an important issue around what happens when a judge retires from office and there are outstanding judgments and so on. It is very good to hear the Minister say he will reflect on this and come back on Report Stage. This is the sort of compromise and negotiation that we could have engaged in far more productively far earlier.

I refrained from speaking on section 57, in which it is provided that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, JAAB, would be dissolved. There was an obvious compromise, where we could have seen really effective reform of the judicial appointments system through reform of the existing JAAB, as proposed by, Jennifer Carroll MacNeilll, and other researchers who have looked at this. That sort of compromise could have been achieved very effectively through negotiation and discussion outside of, and perhaps prior to, Committee Stage of this Bill.

It is very welcome that the Minister has accepted some amendments offered by the Opposition and has indicated his willingness to look at others, including amendment No. 111.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I wish to place on record my thanks to the Minister and his officials who have sat through the 125 long hours.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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We are not finished yet Senator.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I know we are not but we have just hit the last amendment. The Minister has shown a willingness to engage for such a long period of time, and for the most part, with good humour. We need to acknowledge that and I hope he goes away a happy man for the summer.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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We have reached the last amendment, with 125 hours plus of deliberation. I have been present in the Chamber for the vast majority of those, that is, 123 hours. I have been very much impressed by the Minister's tenacity and commitment to continue this debate, which at times has been extremely frustrating. I suppose it is a reflection of how important this Chamber and our democracy are. We got through it and will finish Committee Stage today and will move on to Report Stage, which, hopefully, will not take 125 hours.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I want to pay a compliment to the Minister. He has been tetchy from time to time and has been perfectly entitled to be. He has been very good humoured and cracked the odd joke sometimes. It has taken a very long time but important things have been done.

I very much welcome the fact there was no necessity to operate a guillotine, which is very bad practice. I point out to the Minister that those of us who oppose the Bill have facilitated this. We have taken this debate in a much more rapid fashion than any other debate that has taken place on this Bill. It has been an example of good co-operation between the Minister and Senators and I am grateful to the Minister. I forward to the Report Stage which will probably be taken in the autumn.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I thank the Minister for his response to the last amendment, which was fair and positive, and for being here, as Minister, for the whole debate.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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It was not an easy task. I also thank his officials. It was a good day for democracy, with many ours spent on this, and that is what this process is about. This is what the Taoiseach told us when he visited us. He wanted us to polish up on legislation. Nothing is personal at the end of the day.

One thing it shows - I am familiar with the Minister and his work - is that he really is a master of his brief. I do not say that to charm him. He is on top of his game but I would expect nothing less of him. He is trained in law and in its discipline and is a very impressive-----

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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He is very good at it.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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-----Minister for Justice and Equality. I was certainly in awe of his mastery of his brief in the Department of Justice and Equality, but in particular, of this legislation.

I acknowledge that more than 48 judges have been appointed under this administration and all of them are exceptional people and were appointed on merit. Let us not lose sight of that in this debate. We have a very high calibre of men and women serving in the Judiciary and they have done an exceptionally good job. The system to date has worked. Despite all the arguments, complaints, and media coverage that people would veto, stop, or block the appointment of judges, a very impressive list of 48, if not more, judges have been appointed. I wish all of them well and I am more than confident that it was the right thing to do. They are all men and women of merit. It proves the point that despite all the hours spent in debate, this House or the Government did not stop or impede an appointment to the Judiciary, which is an important point to make.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I neglected to thank the Minister and his officials who have sat with great patience and perseverance through a lengthy process, which I am sure was very difficult and tedious at times for them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sections 60 to 63, inclusive, agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Next Tuesday.

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 16 July 2019.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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I acknowledge the juncture we are now at, which is the end of Committee Stage. I thank Senators for their contributions. It was something of a formidable and lengthy debate. I was very pleased to be here for it. I acknowledge what Senator Boyhan said, namely, this debate is a really important part of the essence of our democracy. We have a bit of work to do over the summer months in reflecting on the status of the Bill. We have made some amendments, and there are other areas on which I have indicated I would be happy to hear further, with a view towards amending at a later Stage. I reiterate my support and that of my Government colleagues for the Bill and for the need to ensure that we modernise the manner in which we appoint our judges. However, the Bill, as amended in committee in the Seanad, is far from perfect and requires further work. I would be happy not only to acknowledge what Senator Bacik and others have said but to engage over the summer months in a way that may well give rise to a situation in which, working together, we have a Bill that is entirely fit for purpose. This is important legislation but it needs a substantial amount of work. I have listened for in excess of 100 hours to the points the Senators have made and have taken careful note of important points that were made. I acknowledge the resilience of my officials for being here through the entirety of the debate.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Hear, hear. Very well deserved.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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They are preparing for the summer holidays. One can be sure of that.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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They, too, have taken careful note of many of the important points made.

While we are coming into the summer break - and I understand that Senators will finish up perhaps later this week or early next week - I do not anticipate that we will take Report Stage next week, nor in fact do I envisage we will take it immediately on resuming in September. Having regard to the fact that some weeks in August are weeks during which people traditionally have the opportunity to take a break, I see the month of September as being a time for reflecting on the next Stage of the Bill and on how to accommodate many of the important issues raised by Senators into legislation that, of course, must accord with the Constitution. I have taken very careful note of the views expressed by Senators as to the constitutionality of the legislation. I am satisfied, from my discussions with the Attorney General and the advices he has given me, that the Bill accords with our Constitution, as it should. Not only should our Bill be in strict accordance with the Constitution, but it should also be legally robust and practically workable. It is because of this that I believe we should now all go through the product, as completed in committee, with a fine-tooth comb and resume in September. I would be happy to engage along the lines proposed by Senator Bacik. We all need to work together. I would be very keen to have this legislation, which forms a fundamental pillar of A Programme for a Partnership Government, enacted in its entirety during the course of the autumn and into the winter.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I did not keep track of how many hours I was in the Chair for this debate but I think it was a fair few. On my own behalf, I thank everybody, particularly today, for managing to get through 25 amendments in just over an hour and not having to use our guillotine at the end.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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That is progress.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I thank all Members for their co-operation. I thank the Minister for his many hours spent here, however many it was, and all his officials. I do not think we will spend this kind of number of hours on too many pieces of legislation in the future. It is a big day. We have managed to conclude Committee Stage before the summer recess, for which I thank all Members.

Sitting suspended at 2.15 p.m. and resumed at 2.25 p.m.